Hawthorn is a thorny shrub in the rose family which grows throughout the world. Hawthorn berries have been used to treat heart problems since at least the 1st century, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Traditionally, hawthorn berry tea was used to treat heart failure, chest pain, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure and hardening of the arteries. Hawthorn berries – along with the leaves and flowers – are a good source of heart-protective antioxidants like oligomeric procyandins and quercetin, which may explain why hawthorn berry tea has such an affinity for heart health.
Chest Pain and Heart Failure
Traditionally, hawthorn berry tea was used to relieve angina – or chest pains – associated with congestive heart failure and restricted blood flow to the heart. Modern scientific studies conducted on the leaves and flowers of the hawthorn plant have shown that the plant may improve symptoms of CHF like fatigue and shortness of breath when used as an adjunct treatment, according to an review published in the “Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews” in January 2008. While there are no scientific studies to date done on the effects of hawthorn berry tea, the berries contain similar flavonoids and other constituents to the leaf and flower, possibly in smaller quantities, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.
Hawthorn for High Blood Pressure
A study published in “Phytotherapy Research” in Feruary of 2002 revealed that a hawthorn extract demonstrated measurable hypotensive effects in people with mild high blood pressure. The study examined a small daily dose of an extract of hawthorn flower and leaf -- there have been no scientific studies on hawthorn berry tea to date. According to naturopathic doctor and herbalist Sharol Tilgner, hawthorn berry tea is useful to treat high blood pressure that is specifically related to stress.
Hawthorn to Soothe Heartache
While contemporary medicine focuses primarily on physical ailments, integrative practitioners posit that the emotional system is intrinsically tied to overall health. Hawthorn berry tea may be used for emotional heartache related to grief, according to Tilgner in “Herabl Medicine From the Heart of the Earth.” She suggests the use of hawthorn berry tea to assist in forgiveness of the self or other and in opening the heart during the healing process.
Hawthorn berry tea is generally considered safe, however Tilgner cautions that hawthorn can increase the effects of cardiac drugs like digitoxin and should not be used in conjunction with herbs containing cardiac glycosides including fox glove and lily of the valley. If you have a heart condition, it is important to work with a doctor or other qualified healthcare practitioner if you are interested in integrating hawthorn berry tea into your lifestyle. Tilgner suggests that hawthorn berry tea is best taken for at least 3 months for the greatest cardiac benefit.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Hawthorn
- The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews: Hawthorn Extract for Treating Chronic Heart Failure
- Phytotherapy Research: Promising Hypotensive Effect of Hawthorn Extract: A Randomized Double-Blind Pilot Study of Mild, Essential Hypertension
- Herbal Medicine From the Heart of the Earth: Sharol Tilgner, N.D.
Amy Myszko is a certified clinical herbalist and nutritional consultant who has been helping people find greater health and balance through diet, lifestyle and natural remedies since 2006. She received her certification from the North American Institute of Medical Herbalism in Boulder, Colo. Myszko also holds a BA in literature from the University of Colorado.